By Brenda J. Trainor
“We offer a course to kindergarten kids to learn to grow stem cells,” explained Dr. Victoria Fox at a recent meeting of MADIA Tech Launch, during the organization’s monthly gathering of people interested in this area’s technology businesses.
Dr. Fox is the president and co-founder of Pathways to Stem Cell Science, a non-profit education and research company established in Monrovia. Its mission is to “support the advancement of stem cell science and create real-world pathways to bioscience careers.”
Both an educator and practicing research scientist, Fox is clearly passionate about her commitment to innovative education strategies and to the advancement of stem cell science. Her presentation to MADIA Tech Launch could be described as Adventures in Stem Cell Science, as she explained her path to becoming an educator, research scientist, and founder of a non-profit organization.
Raised in Great Britain where she obtained her PhD, Fox went on to become an assistant professor of research at the University of Southern California and was the director of the USC Stem Cell Core Facility where she created a hands-on training program to bring practical skills to bioscientists not only in academia, but to professional practitioners and even to high school students. She also served as the vice-chair of USC’s Embryonic Stem Cell Research Committee overseeing scientific and ethical merits of stem cell research.
Fox is currently the CEO of PluriCORE, a stem cell consultation company, and she is a faculty course instructor at California State University-Channel Islands. But it is clear that her heart lies with the development of Pathways to Stem Cell Science. Pathways was nurtured at Lab Launch, a technology incubator located in Monrovia that is home to numerous startup biotech companies. The 11,000 square-foot facility provides office and meeting space as well as wet-lab facilities and access to shared equipment that would be cost-prohibitive for more start-ups.
With a firmly held belief that current educational systems do not adequately prepare students for bioscience careers, Fox set out to create strategies that prepare students for real-world opportunities. Hands-on experience in a laboratory setting gives students a way to develop skills and practical knowledge which can be developed at the earliest stages of education. Pathways has developed a full range of courses and curriculum that starts with pre-kindergarten experiences and progresses through high school, college, graduate programs, and professional development. Among their many innovations is a mobile laboratory that can be brought in to elementary schools where kids can grow stem cells. The organization is working towards establishing a permanent facility in Torrance, and is supported by sponsors, grants, and ongoing research activities.
Pathways is one of dozens of innovative technology companies that have been spotlighted at MADIA Tech Launch meetings. MADIA, an acronym of Monrovia, Arcadia, Duarte, Irwindale, Azusa, is a local non-profit educational organization that supports the regional technology community of the San Gabriel Valley with a variety of networking events. MADIA provides opportunities for entrepreneurs, scientists, investors, students and just plain folks to chat over dinner or drinks and learn about the advanced technology businesses thriving in this area. Reservations for future meetings can be made through the MADIA website: www.MADIAtech.org.